At the top of the Castle of San Giovanni, resting high on the mountains, you can admire the beauty of this panoramic view where the Adriatic Sea carves through the landscape and meets the old Mediterranean port of Kotor. Montenegro, meaning “black mountain”, is bordered by several countries; Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania and has a coastline of one of the most indented parts of the Adriatic Sea.We could have stayed a week here, but if you only have time for a day trip, this is what we did.
The star of the show of my most recent visit to Europe was Croatia, but I really wanted to squeeze in some time and take a day trip to Montenegro. After booking at Hotel Lapad in Dubrovnik, Croatia, I emailed the hotel asking how to go about visiting Montenegro. The hotel responded very quickly and referred me to Gulliver Travel and gave me this contact address firstname.lastname@example.org. The day trip that was offered was to both Budva and Kotor, which was exactly where we wanted to go. Budva is a medieval walled city with beautiful beaches and at 2,500 years old, it’s one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic Sea. The historic town of Kotor is a World Heritage Site with Venetian style architecture and awesome panoramic views. This was an all day trip starting at 7:45 AM and ending at 7:15 PM and costing 38 Euros ($42 USD) per person. I don’t think a day trip can get any cheaper than this!
Pick-up was prompt at exactly 7:45 AM as stated. A friendly young Croatian girl greeted us right after breakfast and asked us to show our passports and ticket confirmation and then walked us to the bus. The bus was a nice size, but not one of those huge embarrassing over the top tourist buses. It was comfortable, air-conditioned and had about 19 seats. There were 11 guests on the bus including us, so we were comfortably spread out.
Our guide spoke over a microphone with a very thick, but pleasant and easily understandable Croatian accent with a lot of interesting information about Croatia, Montenegro and the surrounding areas, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. I usually tune out history stuff and normally would have fallen asleep, but surprisingly she kept me well engaged and the details were pretty interesting.
Once we were on our way, we picked up the rest of the guests and the guide and driver gave us a few gas station stops to get snacks and bathroom breaks. It’s important to carry some cash as many of the smaller places do not take credit cards.
From here we were on our way to cross the border. According to our tour guide, there are two border crossings. The main one, where large tour busses have to go through, and another that is more, as she referred to it, “secret”, that mostly only locals use. The advantage of being on a small tour bus is that you can go through the “secret” crossing and avoid the long wait times that can go over an hour at the main border crossing. So we took the local border which the entire process took about five minutes. The guide had everyone write their names on a sheet of paper along with their country passport. The Croatian boarder only asked to see the U.S. passports. After a stamp on the passport we continued to the Montenegro border, which we stopped again, and they asked for nothing.
We then went to the ferry to cross the river. The bus driver actually drove onto the ferry with several other cars aboard. The ferry ride probably wasn’t even a whole 8 minutes and we were on our way to Porto Montenegro, which as our guide called it, “mini Monaco”. It’s basically a luxury yacht marina with high end shopping.
Ferry boat to reach Porto Montenegro
At the Marina in Porto Montenegro, taking a short break.
From here we went to Budva. Once we got off the bus we stopped and had lunch at Jadran, which our guide actually recommended. On first glance it looks like some motorcycle bar, but the guide promised us there was more to it. When looking at it, we almost skipped it, but decided to listen to our guide and I am glad we did. The restaurant went further and further back and it was cute and romanic and European on the inside, but once we went further, we were out having lunch outside, right on the Adriatic Sea.
Enjoying lunch and the local beer “Nik” in Budva.
It’s such a beautiful thing to just to stop and realize where you are in the world! The food was very good and was served with pita bread and a very delicious spread. I had the seafood platter for about 20 euros. For a local beer, try Niksicko, just ask for “Nik”.
After lunch, there are plenty of nice beaches to explore. The water is such a unique mix of deep blues and clear aqua with a rocky coastline.
Beach in Budva on a clear blue sky.
After Budva we headed to the historic town of Kotor. While doing our research for the trip, we kept seeing these amazing panoramic views of the bay, and we wanted to get our own snapshot. Our tour guide mentioned it would take us about an hour an a half roundtrip to reach the Castle of San Giovanni, which sits atop the mountains overlooking the bay. But it’s not that easy when the weather is super hot and there’s no shade to hide under.It could easily take you an hour to get to the flagpole, the apparent finish line for all those who make the hike. Now here was our situation. We had lost some time in traffic and we only had about and hour and fifteen minutes before returning to Dubrovnik. So huffing and puffing, we literally jogged our way up so we could spend some time taking pictures.
On our way to the Castle of San Giovanni.
Steep hike along the fortified wall.
The Montenegro flag, we made it to the top!
Panorama View of the Bay of Kotor.
After fifteen to twenty minutes taking pictures, we started heading down and stopped to buy a a bottle of water from one of the local vendors. We were really exhausted and weren’t carrying any Euros, but he kindly accepted our US dollars. Under the shade, gazing at the amazing view, he spoke to us in his Slavic language. While we could not understand a single word he said, one phrase stuck in our heads. He kept saying”panorama dobre, panorama dobre”, which means beautiful panoramic view! We rushed our way back and made it to the bus just in time. It was a great day and would definitely recommend taking a day trip to Montenegro if you are staying in Dubrovnik and have some free time to spare.